If the role of “chief caregiver” for Mom or Dad was not one you chose, you are not alone. According to a study by the American Association of Retired Persons and the National Alliance for Caregiving, 49% of family caregivers feel they really did not have a choice in the matter. There are several factors:
The tyranny of the first-born. Across many cultures, it is assumed that the first-born will be in charge of the parents’ care, especially a daughter. Everyone defers to the eldest for decisions.
A twist of geography. Sometimes, by default, family members rely most heavily on the adult child who lives nearby.
“Mom likes you best.” Although we might wish it weren’t so, the truth is, parents have favorites. The child with the “closest” relationship is often expected to step in, even when a different sibling is more available or has better caregiving skills.
No matter which is the case, being the caregiver is often an isolating and overwhelming role. Particularly so when there is criticism and pushback by siblings.
Take these steps to reduce family conflict and your own feelings of resentment:
- Bring assumptions into the open. Have a family meeting, with your parents there too. Talk about care needs and wishes. Discuss the options as a group.
- Align decision making with the day-to-day caregivers. Nothing builds resentment more than having one child provide the hands-on care while another calls the shots.
- Divide roles based on ability. It may be that the physically closest child is the best suited to drive mom on errands. But spread around the other tasks, such as managing the finances or researching medical issues.
- Keep everyone informed. Conflict is less likely to occur if all siblings are kept in the loop. Avoid last-minute surprises with a weekly email talking about current issues and concerns.